The company that started the snowball of pain rolling for Facebook, Cambridge Analytica is shutting down. The company is filing for insolvency and bankruptcy in the UK and US respectively following revelations they abused Facebook’s poorly policed data access rules. And while there may be plenty of people cheering on the sidelines, the collapse of the infamous firm isn’t likely to make all that much difference.
The five year old business said in a statement that “Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the Company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas”.
They also noted that the negative publicity “has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers”.
As a side note, having ads for job vacancies at the same time as announcing the company’s close down seems a little disingenuous.
While Cambridge Analytica is now gone and likely to be little more than a footnote in the annals of privacy case studies that university students will suffer through, what really matters, in the longer term, is what is being done to protect citizens from other companies exploiting weaknesses in regulation when it comes to our data.
My feeling is that companies like Facebook shouldn’t be regulated specifically. Privacy and data access laws need to be written so that they are technology and business model agnostic. And they need to put the protection of citizens ahead of corporate interests. New rules, such as the general Data Protection Regulation, that Facebook seems to be trying to avoid, and the National Data Breach laws are a step in the right direction. But they need to go further and ensure that the penalties for accessing personal data without specific permission and using it only for purposes that are clearly set out are severe.